Stealthy, Persistent Perch and Stare UAVs

AeroVironment's Stealthy, Persistent Perch and Stare UAVs got an additional $5.4 million in birdseed from DARPA. The intent is to develop the company's one-pound, 29-inch wingspan battery-powered Wasp unmanned system.


(Stealthy, Persistent Perch and Stare UAV)

The key technical challenges to be developed and integrated in the micro- air vehicle include: (1) multifunctional materials that integrate the SP2S airframe structure with the power supply and transmit/receive antennas; (2) advanced aerodynamics and control systems, including auto-land and auto-home functions; (3) perch-and-grip technology; (4) microminiature pan/tilt/zoom EO cameras; (5) autonomous image capture; and (6) data link communications relay capability with multiple digital channels that enables beyond-line-of-sight communications, with data/video encryption.

As far as I know, the earliest mention of the idea of a miniature flying machine that can perch and stare is the Scarab Flying Insect Robot from the 1936 story by Raymond Z. Gallun.

The Scarab paused on its perch for a moment, as if to determine for itself whether it was perfectly fit for action. It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length...

...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner. There it studied its surroundings, transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones and saw with its minute vision tubes.

Philip K. Dick deserves an honorable mention for his robotic tracking device from his 1960 story Vulcan's Hammer:

On the chest of drawers something was perched. Something that gleamed, shiny metal, gleamed and clicked as it turned toward her. She saw into two glassy mechanical lenses, something with a tubelike body, the size of a child's bat, shot upward and swept toward her.

Take a look at another AeroVironment project - DARPA Vulture Five Year Flying Wing. See also this article on Perching Autonomous Aircraft Perfects Prop Hang.

From DARPA and US shells out $10M for unmanned aircraft that can perch like a bird; via our friends at frolix_8.

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